« السابقةمتابعة »
detain me till their publication, in the ensuing spring. Lord Sheffield and yourself will be the loadstone that most forcibly attracts me; and as I shall be a vagabond on the face of the earth, I shall be the better qualified to domesticate myself with you, both in town and country. Here then, at no very extravagant distance, we have the certainty (if we live) of spending a year together, in the peace and freedom of a friendly intercourse; and a year is no very contemptible portion of this mortal existence. Beyond that period all is dark, but not gloomy. Whether, after the final completion of my History, I shall return to Lausanne, or settle in England, must depend on a thousand events which lie beyond the reach of human foresight, the state of public and private affairs, my own health, the health and life of Deyverdun, the various changes which may have rendered Lausanne more dear, or less agreeable, to me than at present. But without losing ourselves in this distant futurity, which perhaps they may never see, and without giving ány positive answer to Maria's parting question, whether I shall be buried in England or Switzerland, let me seriously and earnestly ask you, whether you do not mean to visit me next summer? The defeat of Coventry would, I should think, facilitate the project : since the baron is no longer detained the whole winter from his domestic affairs, nor is there any attendance in the house that keeps him till Midsummer in dust and dispute. I can send you a pleasant route, through Normandy, Paris, and Lyons, a visit to the Glaciers, and your return down the Rhine,
which would be commodiously executed in three or four months, at no very extravagant expense, and would be productive of health and spirits to you, of entertainment to you both, and of instruction to the Maria. Without the smallest inconvenience to myself, I am able to lodge yourselves and family, by arranging you in the winter apartment, which in the summer season is not of any use to us. I think you will be satisfied with your habitation, and already see you in your dressing-room, a small pleasant room, with a delightful prospect to the west and south. If poor aunt Kitty (you oblige me beyond expression by your tender care of that excellent woman) if she were only ten years younger, I would desire you to take her with you, but I much fear we shall never meet again. You will not complain of the brevity of this epistle; I expect, in return, a full and fair account of yourself, your thoughts and actions, soul and body, present and future, in the safe, though unreserved, confidence of friendship. The baron in two words hinted but an indifferent account of your health ; you are a fine machine ; but as he was absent in Ireland, I hope I understand the cause and the remedy. Next to yourself, I want to hear of the two baronesses. You must give me a faithful picture (and though a mother, you can give it) of their present external and internal forms; for a year has now elapsed, and in their lives a year is an age. Adieu. Ever yours.
MR. GIBBON TO LORD SHEFFIELD.
Lausanne, October 1st, 1785. EXTRACT from a weekly English paper, September 5th, 1785, “ It is reported, but we hope without foundation, that the celebrated Mr. Gibbon, who had retired to Lausanne, in Switzerland, to finish his valuable History, lately died in that city.”
The hope of the newspaper writer is very handsome and obliging to the historian; yet there are several weighty reasons which would incline one to believe that the intelligence may be true. Primo, It must one day be true; and therefore may very probably be so at present. Secundo, We may always depend on the impartiality, accuracy, and veracity of an English newspaper. Tertio, which is indeed the strongest argument, we are credibly informed that for a long time past the said celebrated historian has not written to any of his friends in England; and as that respectable per. sonage had always the reputation of a most exact and regular correspondent, it may fairly be concluded from his silence, that he either is, or ought to be dead. The only objection that I can fore. see, is the assurance that Mr. Ghimself read the article as he was eating his breakfast, and laughed very heartily at the mistake of his brother historian; but as he might be desirous of concealing that unpleasant event, we shall not insist on his apparent health and spirits, which might be affected by that subtle politician. He affirms, however, not only that he is alive, and
was so on the 5th of September, but that his head, his heart, his stomach are in the most perfect state, and that the climate of Lausanne has been congenial both to his mind and body. He confesses indeed, that after the last severe winter, the gout, his old enemy, from whom he hoped to have escaped, pursued him to his retreat among the mountains of Helvetia, and that the siege was long, though more languid than in his precedent attacks; after some exercise of patience he began to creep, and gradually to walk; and though he can neither run, nor fly, nor dance, he supports himself with firmness on his two legs, and would willingly kick the impertinent Gazetteer; impertinent enough, though more easily to be forgiven than the insolent Courier du Bas Rhin, who about three years ago amused himself and his readers with a fictitious epistle from Mr. Gibbon to Dr. Robertson.
Perhaps now you think, baron, that I shall apologize in humble style for my silence and neglect. But, on the contrary, I do assure you that I am truly provoked at your lordship's not condescending to be in a passion. I might really have been dead, I might have been sick; if I were neither dead nor sick, I deserved a volley of curses and reproaches for my infernal laziness, and you have defrauded me of my just dues. Had I been silent till Christmas, till doomsday, you would never have thought it worth your while to abuse me. Why then (let me ask in your name) did you not write before? That is indeed a very curious question of natural and
moral philosophy. Certainly I am not lazy; elaborate quartos have proved, and will abundantly prove my diligence. I can write : spare my modesty on that subject. I like to converse with my friends by pen and tongue, and as soon as I can set myself agoing, I know no moments that run off more pleasantly. I am so well convinced of that truth, and so much ashamed of forcing people that I love to forget me, that I have now resolved to set apart the first hour of each day for the discharge of my obligations ; beginning comme de raison, with yourself, and regularly proceeding to Lord Loughborough and the rest. May Heaven give me strength and grace to accomplish this laudable intention! Amen.Certainly (yet I do not know whether it be so certain) I should write much oftener to you if you were not linked in business, and if my business had not always been of the unpleasant and mortifying kind. Even now I shove the ugly monster to the end of this epistle, and will confine him to a page by himself, that he may not infect the purer air of our correspondence. Of my situation here I have little new to say, except a very comfortable and singular truth, that my passion for my wife or mistress (Fanny Lausanne) is not palled by satiety and possession of two years : I have seen her in all seasons, and in all humours, and though she is not without faults, they are infinitely overbalanced by her good qualities. Her face is not handsome, but her person, and every thing about her, has admirable grace and beauty : she is of a very cheerful, sociable